Trees knocked down by tropical storm Irene caused more than 35 road blockages in town, half of which closed the road completely, creating a dangerous situation in the event of fire or medical emergency.
The Ledyard Public Works Department rose to the challenge, working 16-hour days that began on Sunday, Aug. 29, and continued through Thursday of that week, when the town finally achieved “all clear” status.
“They worked hard,” Public Works Director Steve Masalin said of his staff. “They were willing to stay late. They worked 12-hour shifts starting on that Monday, and then I had a crew that stayed with CL&P to work into the evening, anywhere from 8-10 p.m.”
The operation was a success, described by Masalin as one of the more efficient he’s seen in his time as director of the department.
“The guys stayed as close behind CL&P as we could,” he said, cleaning up limbs and branches that had just been removed from wires and putting them through a chipper before moving to the next location to clean up. “We stayed right behind them.”
By the end of the week, Masalin said his crew was tired. His overtime account, he said, was exhausted.
Masalin said the storm and its aftermath cost his department some $16,500 in overtime and related, smaller expenditures. “That will have exhausted our OT budget for the year,” he said.
By “the year,” he was referring to the fiscal year that began July 1. There is also a separate account for snow removal, which is still in place, he said.
Nevertheless, not even three months into the new fiscal year, the department already is feeling squeezed. “I will have to speak to the Finance Committee to ask how we are going to handle this,” he said.
Last week the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (EMHS) met with town officials from the region in Stonington to advise and begin coordinating the process of receiving storm-related aid from FEMA. After Irene all eight Connecticut counties were declared a “disaster,” by the federal government, making towns eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
Masalin said an initial application was prepared and submitted last week. But experience has taught that the process can be a lengthy one.
Earlier this year the town received aid from FEMA after record snowfall in January exhausted the town’s snow removal funds.
“We applied in mid-January,” Masalin said. “We received a check on June 30 – five and a half months later.”